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Small Claims

Small claims are filed to resolve disputes without a lawyer. 

The amount claimed (including the value of property) must be $10,000 or less. 

  • If you are claiming money and property worth more than $10,000, you cannot file a Small Claim. Go to Civil or see a lawyer for advice. 
  • Claims for more than $750 and up to $10,000 can be filed in either Small Claims or Civil court. Lawyers can represent you in Civil court. 
  • Claims for $750 or less must be filed in Small Claims court. An exception allows these claims to be filed in general Civil court if the law you are suing under specifically allows lawyer fees to be awarded. Talk to a lawyer for more information if you think you are entitled to recover lawyer’s fees and want to file a claim for $750 or less in general civil court. 

Court staff cannot give legal advice (see section below). You may talk to a lawyer at any time for help with your claim, but lawyers are not allowed to participate in small claims hearings without the judge’s permission.

Information on Filing a Claim

If you are filing the claim, you are the Plaintiff and the party you are suing is the Defendant. This does not change throughout the case. The amount claimed (including the value of property) must be $10,000 or less. 

You must make a “bona fide” (good faith) effort to collect your claim from the defendant before you file. Your claim form must include a statement that you tried to resolve the issue before you filed a claim. 

NOTE: If there are two versions of any form, select the Multnomah version.  Additional statewide forms are located in the Forms Center.  If you use a statewide form, you must ensure the document header references “FOR THE COUNTY OF MULTNOMAH”.

Information on Responding to a Claim

If you have been served with a Small Claim, you have 14 calendar days to file your response. If the response is not received by the court within that time, the plaintiff may request a default judgment against you for the amount claimed plus filing fees, service costs, and a prevailing party fee. 

NOTE: If there are two versions of any form, select the Multnomah version.  Additional statewide forms are located in the Forms Center.  If you use a statewide form, you must ensure the document header references “FOR THE COUNTY OF MULTNOMAH”.

What is Mediation?

Multnomah County Circuit Court has a small claims pre-trial mediation program that provides an opportunity for people in conflict to reach a mutually satisfying resolution with the help of an impartial third party, the mediator.  Parties are required to appear on the date and time set in the Notice of Hearing – Mediation.  Failure to appear at the time set may result in your case being dismissed or a default judgment being entered against you.  
NOTE:  If there are two versions of any form, select the Multnomah version.  Additional statewide forms are located in the Forms Center.  If you use a statewide form, you must ensure the document header references “FOR THE COUNTY OF MULTNOMAH”. 
 

What Happens at Mediation?

There will be a brief orientation to mediation and all parties will meet with a mediator.  The mediator remains impartial throughout the mediation process and does not make decisions for the parties.  The mediator will help both sides try to understand the other’s perspective and assist in determining if there is sufficient common ground to allow the parties to reach an agreement.   

If an agreement cannot be reached or if either party chooses not to participate in mediation, a trial will be scheduled for a later date and the parties will be sent a notice setting the case for trial 

What Happens at Trial?

Small claims trials are informal so that the parties can handle their own cases. Lawyers cannot appear without special permission of the court.  At trial, the plaintiff goes first and the defendant second.  Both sides will have the opportunity to present sworn testimony, evidence (e.g. documentation, photos) and call witnesses.   At the conclusion of the trial, the judge will make a decision and enter at judgment. 

You need to bring any documentation you want the court to consider (e.g. cancelled checks, contracts, photographs, building inspection reports) to trial.  The original must be provided to the court and you must provide copies to the other party.  You will want a copy for your own use.  Any witnesses you plan to have testify must be present at trial.  

Note: Small Claims judgments are final and not subject to appeal.

What Happens after Trial?

If you win the case, you are the Judgment Creditor. If you lose the case, you are the Judgment Debtor. If you are the Judgment Creditor, you are responsible for all efforts to collect the money judgment.  

If the debtor cannot pay in full, you and the debtor can attempt to work out a payment plan. If the debtor cannot pay, or will not pay, you may: 

  • Have the court issue a Writ of Garnishment to be served on the debtor's employer or bank. There is a fee for the court to issue the Writ. If the Writ is served on a bank, there will also be a search fee charged by the bank. Garnishment forms can be purchased at a legal stationery store.
  • After a Writ of Garnishment has been issued by the court and returned unsatisfied, or you have served a notice of demand of payment at least 10 days earlier and the debtor has not responded. You may file a motion or write a request for the judge to order the Judgment Debtor appear in court so you can question them about assets.  The court does not provide Writ of Garnishment forms or assist with filing them out.  Forms may be obtained at legal stationary stores or office supply stores.  

The Judgment Creditor MUST file a Satisfaction of Judgment (Satisfaction of Money Award) when full payment on the money award portion of your judgment has been made. Sometimes parties agree to update the court when a partial payment is made.  In these cases A Partial Satisfaction of Judgment may be filed. 

 

Filing

Information from Court Staff

Court Forms

NOTE: If there are two versions of any form, select the Multnomah version. Additional statewide forms are located on the Forms Center page. If you use a statewide form, you must ensure the document header references "FOR THE COUNTY OF MULTNOMAH".

Filing Fees

Fees for civil cases are due at the time of filing your papers.  If you cannot pay the fee at the time of filing, you may apply for a fee deferral/waiver.  If the fee deferral/waiver is granted, collection of those fees are the same as any other monetary obligation.  For additional information, please go to  the Fee Waiver/Fee Deferral page.

 

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